Daniel Karlsson will be most familiar to jazz fans outside Sweden from his stints as keyboardist to Magnus Öström. In fact, he's playing with Öström's band in April at Ronnie Scott’s in April. However, with At The Feel Free Falafel, his third album, Karlsson demonstrates that his solo career is also very much in rude health.
While keeping to the standard keyboard/bass/drums format that's so much a part of the modern jazz scene, Karlsson's happy to subvert the form. For instance, on a number of tracks he uses the Mellotron. Though unusual in jazz, it was used by Herbie Hancock on the Crossings and Sextant albums. This instrument is a relic of the sixties era of experimentation with sound: a keyboard linked to loop tape tracks for each note, the Mellotron provides an eerie, squishy sort of sound which, in Karlsson's hands, generates some fantastic soundscapes. This is evident on track one, Chilly Chili, where the Mellotron worms its way around the simple chord progression supporting the melody in a delightfully oddball fashion, leading into a more groove-based second half of the track.
Clearly, Karlsson must have been rather hungry when making this album, given the number of food-related tracks names, such as the second - and best - The Daily Döner. This starts of with a thrusting string riff on the viola played by Karlsson’s sister, Rebecka, which brings to mind the early nineties UK dance sound of Jazzie B’s big hit, Back to Life! It’s certainly the liveliest track on the album and, like any good Doner kebab, has a lot of musical trimmings which demonstrate just how expressive a keyboardist Karlsson is, making so much out of so little. A very tasty affair.
Rolls for Rolling has the laziest of drum beats shuffling it along, creative a rather introspective mood that slows the pace of the album beautifully, allowing the listener to wallow in some lovely block chords and wheezy electronic sounds.
Karlsson's drummer of choice remains Fredrik Rundqvist, but on this album he has a new bassist, Christan Spering, who fits in perfectly with Karlsson's musical vision and demonstrates, on tracks such as Folke Bengtsson Won a Trip and Two Blocks Away, that he has pockets full of soloing ideas. On the former, he and Karlsson drive the track beautifully through all the gears with a lovely a-rhythmic jolt from time to time before it opens out into some beautiful playing. Whoever Folke Bengtsson was, judging by this track he must have had a ruddy good time!
Samba Cymbal is all electronic piano and harsh eighties synth sounds, lovingly mixed like a Soho cocktail and is perhaps the most conventionally jazz-sounding of the tracks, with Karlsson demonstrating a capacity to make delightful runs up and down the keyboard with his right hand, comping beautifully and simply with his left. This is an absorbing and exciting track, with dream-like interludes before a gorgeously enveloping, earthy synth drives the main melody to a hurly burly conclusion.
As on previous albums, fellow Swede, guitarist Andreas Hourdakis, guest on two tracks: Viggo’s Veggie - perhaps my favourite track on the album - and Recycling Society. Thought a rather subdued contribution, I think Hourdakis always adds another dimension to Karlsson’s sound which is welcome on both tracks. About a minute in, Viggo’s Veggie bursts into life with Hourdakis’ playing his guitar strings in a way suggestive of a dream sequence but which in fact merely introduces a rather simply, but charmingly knockabout track. Final track Recycling Society is the most pastoral of tunes, a soft, moody way to end the album which yet has at its heart a blisteringly simple, toe-tapping bass line from Spering over which simple hi-hat work from Rundqvist brings everything together nicely.
There’s a nice mix of tracks across the album, though I think it maybe lacks that one really standout track that was evident on his last two albums, Das Taxibat and Fusion for Fish. That being said, it’s still overall a very strong, listenable album which I can see getting a lot of play on jazz radio stations around Europe.